Neighbours Not Strangers = the best of friends

Trish Burt

In June 2016 Ulrike travelled to Sydney Australia and sought me out as a fellow community activist battling against illegal short-term rentals. We met for coffee on Sydney's north shore and I invited Ulrike to come and stay with me after she had finished her motorbike trip around southern Australia. We visited the Blue Mountains during her stay and shared many stories of our common experiences.

In July 2017, during a trip to Canada to visit relatives and friends, I again met up with Ulrike on two occasions - at the beginning and at the end of my travels. On the first occasion, we met for coffee in Ulrike's regular coffee house, close to her home. It was pouring with rain, which didn't stop us then exploring Vancouver's foreshore. On my return, the sun shone brightly.

In June 2018 Ulrike posted to social media that she was taking some time out from campaigning as she was 'travelling in Europe'. I immediately wrote to her and asked if she would be in either England or France, advising that at that time I was at University in Toulouse. Ulrike immediately replied, writing that as chance would have it, she was biking along the tow path on the Canal du Midi and was, by coincidence, about to pass on by Toulouse the next day. Instead missing city, she came into town and stayed with me in my student's digs. We spent a couple of fantastic days together.

Today in Sydney, I sat having a coffee with a young Italian chef; he was taking a break from work at the cafe where I go daily. His workplace, right near the Sydney Opera House, is staffed by Italians and Nepalese and they very much support me in this time of COVID. I told my young chef of the wonderful friends I have in Vancouver and elsewhere and stated how much they were on my mind and that I must write to them to say that I'm so concerned about their welfare. Did I get around to writing? No. Am I saddened at the news of Ulrike's passing? Profoundly.

Ulrike and I share a common passion - everyone's right to safe, secure, affordable housing. I was going to write to tell Ulrike that the situation in the building in which I had lived for 19 years - the apartment in Sydney where she had stayed with me - had become so unbearable that I had given up. Two weeks ago I moved, to a much better, far more secure and welcoming building. For my peace of mind and general health, I simply had to let 'the pack' - the illegal short-term rental operators and their collaborators in my former building - win; however, their win and my departure has been my absolute gain. I was sick and tired of the constant, decade-long level of harrassment and threats received, due to our stance on housing and the proprietary rights of those whose desire is simply to live in a residential community. The unnamed troll who targets me on Social Media has also had Ulrike in (his)/her sights and has publicly harrassed Ulrike, due simply because of her connection with me.

Today we have lost such a remarkable friend. Astonishing how in all honesty Ulrike has been front-and-centre of thoughts, as if her spirit was so close. Go with all our love Ulrike. Enjoy the grand adventures, and please do watch over us if and when you have time. You are so loved and will be remembered always. Trish Burt www.neighboursnotstrangers.com

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